Gaming without Borders.

Hi everyone, my name's Joe, and I'll be tormenting you with inane banter acting as your host this fine day. I suck terribly at writing introductions, so let's just say that I am not an old hand at RPGs, having only found this hobby in the last year or so, meaning much of what I say will be redundant and filled with modern hipster slang such as, 'groovy', 'radical', and 'funky fresh'. Try to keep up, please.

Today, I'll talk about something that doesn't get nearly enough coverage so far as I am concerned: Gaming online.

No, not World of Warcraft. In fact, I'm not talking about any so-called MMORPG. I'm talking about playing real roleplaying games over the shiny box known as a computer. There are a couple of ways to play, each with advantages and disadvantages. None are quite as satisfying as playing face-to-face and watching the expression on your friend's face turn to one of sheer dread when his character wakes up and discovers he's now armed only with a spoon and facing a massive red dragon.1

But they can be extremely fun nonetheless. The most common methods of Internet gaming are:

  • Play-by-email
  • Play-by-IM
  • and Play-by-forum

First up is playing by email, which is a challenge most times as you often need to set up a central depot of sorts to do it correctly. A webmail list is only the beginning here! But it has advantages in that it's much more sedately paced, so is easy to fit in when the hectic reality of life strikes you down.

Secondly comes play-by-IM (or Skype or whatever instant messaging style service you prefer, coupled preferably with a digital map program). The disadvantages of this are immediately apparent. You need to gather with your group at a predetermined time and go through the motions of a traditional game. This is excellent for building friendships and having the same instant-gratification one would get from face-to-face gaming, but it can suffer from lag and other unanticipated delays. Also, just an observation on my part, but a lot of IM games tend to devolve into silliness very quickly.

My preferred method of Internet play is play-by-forum (or play-by-post, whichever you prefer). There are plenty of websites out there to facilitate your play, and the real beauty of this is that you can game with players from all over the world. Of course, the flaw here is that, like play-by-email games, the pace can be slow. Of course, that makes them good as extras in addition to your regular face-to-face gaming.

I got into play-by-forum gaming when my group went through a lull last year. I desperately needed some gaming and so turned to the dark land of the Internet to seek it out, like many a young lad before me. I tried several MMOs and found them to be lacking in what I wanted, namely roleplaying. That is when I stumbled onto the idea of play-by-forum, and it's nicely supplemented my group's gaming ever since.

My site of choice is, due to the great community and vast number of games, but there's plenty out there to choose from, some good, a lot bad. A decent list to start with is here at RPG Gateway.

What about you? Have you ever played games over the Internet? If so, what were your experiences like? And how did you choose to go about doing it?

1 That'll teach him to whine about not wanting to start our campaigns in taverns anymore!


  1. Ooh, I forgot about Mythweavers! They aren't too bad, though I still prefer Rpol.

    And you're 100% right that the pace can be a real killer. I too have never played a play-by-post game to completion. But I have been in an ongoing game for almost a year, and it had been going for a year before I joined, so certain games do have staying power. But you do have to put up with a sedate pace usually, and that isn't always a perfect fit. What might take an hour in tabletop time will take months in play-by-post time. Heck, that ongoing game I mentioned has only had two "dungeons" in the year I've been with them, so fast-paced and thrill-a-minute aren't words I'd use to describe PbP gaming. :P

  2. I haven't tried OpenRPG, but I have used a Java-based client called MapTool. It's functionally similar, but I found it easier to run when playing games between Windows PCs and my Linux rig. It's also quite easy to mod since it's Java. Unfortunately, it never quite caught on with my group and I must admit part of that was my fault; I'm a very loose GM and I don't like to strictly plan my adventures in advance, which means few maps, and if there's one thing MapTool likes it's maps.

    That said, it's been a good fit to illustrate play-by-post Pathfinder and 4E games. :)

    It can be hard to find a good play-by-post group, but at least when you've plenty of options the chances of finding a good game are easier. I tend to like older editions of D&D for my gaming and, surprisingly, they aren't as hard to find online. On the other hand, most of Mongoose's games (as an example) are much, much trickier to find, so it's really a crap-shoot.

    But hey, you're right about them being fun to read. They really can convey more of a story-telling vibe when done well.

  3. You're welcome. :)

    I wish I could remember how I actually found Rpol, but it happened so long ago and took such a convoluted path that it's now a mystery to me. I recall searching for play-by-email groups and play-by-forum sites, and not finding anything I liked until I somehow stumbled onto Rpol. The variety of games on the site, coupled with the friendly player-base, made it instantly appealing.

    Also, its method of setting up separate sub-forums for each game works so perfectly that I can't imagine a simpler or more aesthetically appealing method.

  4. For me, I still prefer a good old face-to-face game, but if the choice is forum games played via the Evil Box of Shiny Doom or no games, I'll choose forum games and the Box of Doom any day. I will admit though that it was something of a revelation to learn that I could play real RPGs over the Internet, and that not everything was World of Warcraft and its army of clone MMOs.

  5. I started with play-by-post, actually, seventeen years ago, on an old USENet group. I use play-by-email as a supplement to a table-top campaign, or alternately by exchanging posts with players on our Obsidian Portal wiki. I'm also on where I get to try out new games (such as Spirit of the Century, or Lady Blackbird) that my table-top group doesn't want to try.

  6. That's groovy! I don't know a lot of players who got their start in the hobby via the Internet even today much less 17-years ago. I suppose there have been more and more finding their way to the hobby thanks to the modern convenience of the Internet as opposed to actually finding a group to play with. I know it's helped me play more than I normally would have been able to!

    I've never tried Obsidian Portal, but I have heard some good things about it.

  7. Try RealRoleplaying. Excellent mature community of gamers who emphasise roleplaying over rollplaying. They cater to non d20 games of all kinds.


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